engagement

Indigenous Media

Pattern ID: 
446
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
55
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Miguel Angel Pérez Alvarez
Colegio de Pedagogía, UNAM
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Lack of representation in media production results in reduced diversity of ideas and perspectives in the media. This often results in manipulation, lack of political participation and knowledge about rights. It lessens opportunities to engage in politics or to assume responsibilities in government. Indigenous people who are denied their voice will find it difficult to fight oppression, work with allies, or maintain their culture. Without the means to make their voices heard, communities become atomized within themselves and invisible to the outside world.

Context: 

Indigenous people in rural and urban areas in developing and developed countries around the world need to create

Discussion: 

This pattern could be applied in urban areas and in rural areas where communities have suffered years of economic and social stagnation. Indigenous media is different from media that is produced by and for other underserved groups such as ethnic and sexual minorities, women, and youth. For one thing, indigenous people often don’t know how to engage the media from their village far from electricity, telephones, press, or radio or television stations. For another thing, the knowledge that is intrinsic to their culture may be localized. It may be centuries old, embodied in stories or other non-written forms and endangered.

Information is essential for development and it is now urgent to empower indigenous people with media technologies and knowledge. There are many activities which indigenous farmers could undertake to help improve their lives with better access to media. If, for example, the farmers of Chiapas in Southeast Mexico could sell their products directly to the companies they could improve their economic situation. Currently intermediaries buy coffee in poor villages for a few coins which is then sold to big companies at great profit. Access to the market depends on knowledge and the technological means to capitalize on it.

We know that this is not only a problem for the poor. Many people around the world have problems related to lack of media access. The fact that large corporations control the media becomes a matter of life and death because the media is the de facto gatekeeper of important information related to health and safety. Indigenous people often lack the power, knowledge and technology to produce their own information and their own media. The Internet could provide a new way to communicate. For example, in the south and south-east areas of México, there are new Internet access centers but these are only for people who already know how to use computers and the Internet, knowledge that many indigenous people don’t have.

Indigenous Media simultaneously addresses many needs of marginalized indigenous groups. Thus embracing this pattern entails education and training, policy, resources (time, money, people, for example) in addition to access to the technology itself. An e-mail campaign or a panel discussion on a radio show can help organize a campaign against a group of intermediaries or to denounce bad legislators. In Mexico's rural communities such as Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca radio stations managed by indigenous farmers and satellite gateways to the Internet can make the difference between intimidation and free speech. Some notable examples from around the world include Radio Tambuli Radio Network in the Philippines, the Deadly Mob aboriginal organization of Alice Springs, Australia, and the Koahnic Broadcast Corporation in Alaska.

Non-indigenous people can play a role in support of this pattern. They can organize training programs in the 3,100 new access points are installed in the municipalities around Mexico and/or in Internet cafes. Many institutions and international agencies whose programs include technology in rural areas can donate equipment, access to the Internet (maybe via satellite gateways), and Internet streaming. NGOs with training and learning programs can work with indigenous farmers and others to learn how to apply media access technology. Mino of the Ashaninka native people in Peru who was instrumental in establishing Internet access for his people stresses that indigenous people must not allow non-indigenous people to monopolize information. For that reason, he and others in his group carefully observed every technical installation that was carried out in his village.

Unfortunately the pattern language and other educational tools are not available in native languages and are useless to most indigenous people. Many of these stakeholders have experience with ICT who can share their stories of success and failure, but they can't express their thoughts in English.

Radio, print media, television, all have potential to help shape public opinion. When rural farmers acquire Internet skills and can access media, they can apply this knowledge to create their own information and communication systems. Ultimately, indigenous people can promote success by communicating with other indigenous people around the world about their experiences.

Arts of Resistance, Alternative Media, Roles in Media, Influencing the Design of Information Technologies, Mobile ICT Learning Facilities for 3rd World Communities, International Networks of Alternative Media, Control of One's Representation, Solidarity Networks, Ordinary Protagonists and Everyday Life

Solution: 

Encourage the development of indigenous media that is controlled by indigenous people themselves. People outside the indigenous community can become involved — but only in consultation with the indigenous community.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The lack of participation and influence by indigenous communities in media production results in reduced diversity of ideas and perspectives. This can result in lack of political participation and knowledge about rights. It lessens opportunities to engage in politics or to assume responsibilities in government. Indigenous people who are denied their voice will find it difficult to fight oppression, work with allies, or maintain their culture.

Pattern status: 
Released

Mutual Help Medical Websites

Pattern ID: 
778
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
54
Andy Dearden
Sheffield Hallam University
Patricia Radin
Formerly, California State University-Hayward
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People suffering from chronic medical conditions need both information about their condition and the support of others who share their problems. How can such groups of people use the Internet to address their needs, and how can they design and operate a website for the best possible outcome?

Context: 

The Internet allows us to become content providers as well as users. A medically based Web community can become a powerful source of collective intelligence about a particular medical condition, with thousands of people sharing research results, articles, and personal observations with each other, thus breaking down the monopoly that doctors once held on medical information. Such a community also can be a source of comfort, wisdom, new friendships and material assistance. However, the nature of the medium also allows for casual, even abusive use of the information space.

Discussion: 

Breast Cancer Action Nova Scotia's (BCANS http://www.bca.ns.ca) interactive site is the world's largest and oldest breast cancer discussion site, indeed one of the oldest medical mutual-help sites in existence, dating from 1996 when it was started by a volunteer. The site began a period of fast growth in 1998 and in 2002 was reported to have about 400 closely involved "regulars", a wider circle of people who drop in now and then, and an unknown number of lurkers, some of them long-term. Not only women but a few men with breast cancer post to this group, as well as husbands, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and friends. Although the majority of users are American, with about one-fourth Canadian, the site also hosts visitors from all the other continents, notably a large and active contingent from Australia and New Zealand, numerous Europeans, and participants from Turkey, South Africa, India, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.

Participants in the website can give and receive:
• reassurance and caring;
• informal advice to cope with the myriad sub-acute problems that arise;
• encouragement to stick with medical treatment regimens;
• professional medical information, such as details of new clinical trials;
• support for questioning conventional medical wisdom;
• material goods such as cards, gifts, and funds.

The site also includes tributes to those who have died; a collection of links to specific breast cancer topics; and a glossary of more than 400 breast cancer-related terms.

Since its launch with a single discussion forum, an interactive calendar for local (Halifax, Nova Scotia) activities, and a mission statement, BCANS has grown into a community that has written books, given conference presentations, appeared on TV and radio, launched a fundraising arm, and formed numerous in-person friendships.

To account for the success of BCANS, Patricia Radin turned to social capital theory, which analyzes the elements of beneficial social networks. According to the literature, trust is at the heart of a "virtuous circle" of activity wherein people voluntarily help each other, receive benefits in return, and again reach out to provide assistance. Although social capital theory was developed by looking at networks of people working face-to-face in bounded situations, it appears applicable to any context where mutual assistance is being rendered, such as an online medical mutual-help group.

Some specific features of site design and operations help to move visitors progressively toward a state of greater trust and reciprocity.

• An alert webmistress fiercely protects the community from hurtful messages, spam, and exploitation, thus promoting a high level of trust and goodwill.
• As well as the main forum discussing breast cancer issues, there are now additional sub-forums: e.g. one to accommodate groups planning get-togethers and one to allow for the swapping of recipes, jokes, and so on.
• A "prayer chain" section is available for users to post spiritual messages.
• Chat rooms are open 24 hours a day, but particular times are specified when a ‘host’ will be available to welcome newcomers to the chat room.
• There are two ways for participants to post permanent self-introductions (including photos): by filing a profile, which is then automatically linked with each message; and by posting an autobiography in a password-protected section accessible only to others who have filed a "biog." Many personal friendships have been formed and some community members visit the discussions as often as three times a day.

These features allow new visitors to size up the costs/benefits of participation in a risk-free environment; it allows longer-term users to stage their level of self-disclosure; choose from many ways to contribute and receive from the group; and to take part in shared experiences, both virtual and face-to-face; and it gives the more established community members chances to develop personal relationships and initiate projects of mutual benefit.

This pattern is in memory of Patricia Radin who is the original author.

Solution: 

Seek to build trust in stages:

1. Attract and reassure new visitors by giving visual messages explaining why the website was built and who for. Avoid advertising and show sponsorship from individuals clearly. Provide messages from others who share the condition.

2. Allow users to choose when and how to give out personal information. Separate publicly available profiles, from password protected areas where more personal information might be shared. Chat rooms can allow a more ephemeral form of "conversation". Sites should also permit people to send personal responses to posted comments, instead of posting to the whole forum.

3. Be alert to the potential problems of lurkers or abusive material. Active editors are needed to edit out abusive material, to act as hosts in chat rooms, and to maintain the site as a safe space.

4. Seek to build "thick trust," by supporting joint activities - doing things together, this gives people the opportunity to size up each other in a variety of situations.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People suffering from chronic medical conditions need information and the support of others who share their problems. A web community can be a powerful source of collective intelligence, of comfort, wisdom, friendships and material assistance. Trust must built in stages through communication, privacy, and planning. Moreover, the organizers and the community itself should work together to build "thick trust" through collaborative activities.

Pattern status: 
Released

Alternative Media in Hostile Environments

Pattern ID: 
433
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
53
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Despots despise the visibility that a truly free press can provide. It is their unchallengeable iniquity that would receive the most intense airing. Under oppressive regimes, the circulation of information, literature, and other art forms can be dangerous. People can be harassed, beaten-up, imprisoned or even executed for possession of forbidden information — or the means to create, reproduce or distribute it. Journalists face even greater challenges and require an extensive collection of techniques to get the news out to all who need it.

Context: 

This pattern focuses on journalism during hostile conditions in which citizens have a greater need to engage with the forbidden knowledge and share it with members of their community. The future of reform often depends on the success of this collaboration between journalists and citizens. The ideas in this pattern (including new distribution practices, for example) also can be used in the US or other countries that have a nominally free press yet one that is dominated by a few strong voices with deep pockets.

Discussion: 

The world can be very hostile to independent and alternative journalists and to people who read and think. Even countries where there are no legal restrictions to a "free" press have major problems. The journal Index on Censorship and the organization Reporters without Borders regularly report on the barbarities visited upon journalists worldwide. Despots know that the truth can damage their reputations and ultimately their regime. Although the truth is difficult to hide forever, postponing its arrival, limiting its exposure, and casting aspersions on its accuracy may be adequate for their purposes.

A hostile environment is one in which coercion or force — either formally through laws and police — or informally through thugs or contract killers is employed to stifle the free flow of ideas. The most common form of choking off the flow of information that could be damaging to the government, corporations or wealthy individuals is distraction. Serbian media during the Milosevic years with its breezy lightweight confections of schmaltzy pop as well as nationalist songs and slapstick served up in many cases by scantily clad women, provides a good example of this.

One appendage of the unfree press (at least as conceptualized in the U.S.) is a ruthlessly efficient secret police that stomps out every aspect of alternative point-of-view the instant that it surfaces. This modus operandi seems to be uncommon in practice (and would no doubt be the envy of all the despots). The defenders of the status quo, though loutish and dangerous, are often capricious and incompetent, and they are generally stymied by insufficient resources. The ambiguity of the laws and the ambiguity of the presumed offenses also can work in favor of the journalist.

The former Soviet Union and its satellites provided the fertile soil for an independent press that operated on the margins of the law for several decades. This is the classic "samizdat" distribution in which readers painstakingly and secretly copied by hand or via typewriter and carbon paper, multiple copies of entire books which were then passed on to others who would do the same.

In the "developed world" journalists and other media workers are specialized: one person intones the news of the day, using video clips that another person edited which was shot by another person during an interview conducted by another person as ordered by another person. When the political climate turns nasty and journalists are beaten-up, threatened or killed by government soldiers, paramilitary troops or thugs, when resources dry up or when disaster or wartime situations erupt, journalists habituated to the strict division of labor may be unable to adopt the more flexible and improvisational mode of news production when that becomes necessary. Journalists with overspecialized, deep but narrow, skills will find that they are unable to respond quickly and flexibly when their tried-and-true practices fail due to unexpected circumstances.

Alternative news distribution involves a canny cat and mouse game between those who believe in the free distribution of information and those who don't. Living within an actively hostile environment, it will be necessary to keep changing the way that business is done to meet new challenges. Unlike journalists in the US or other developed countries, journalists must adept in many modes of reporting, many approaches to distribution, a variety of tactics and strategies and the inventive use of what's available to get the job done, as befits what B92 journalist Veran Matic calls a "universal journalist, not an encyclopedic polymath who is informed in different fields, but a professional familiar with print journalism, radio and television, online journalism and information distribution mechanisms." This is what I call a bricoleur-journalist who sends the sounds that accompany the scene at voting station in Africa can go directly over the air via a cell phone with an open line to the radio station. Audio cassettes, printed broadsides or, more commonly today, DVDs can be distributed when the plug is pulled on a radio station (as it was three times during B92's early years of confronting Milosevic). And bricoleur-journalists in different cultures and settings, such as Chinese pro-democracy or environmental activists, will assume any number of local variants.

An interesting, unexpected issue seems to surface from time-to-time by the underground media (and society in general) after the fall of an oppressive regime. (fate of art and literature) Ironically, many people who worked closely with clandestine media over the years now feel unsettled in the post-soviet environment. After communism fell the former trickle of information became a tsunami of mostly commercial offerings. When information was scarce and in danger of extinction possessed an almost sacred allure. Now the same type of information is lost in the flood, just more anonymous flotsam and jetsam in a torrent of images and sounds.

Samizdat or clandestine journalism doesn't always succeed of course. Translating the success of the samizdat or underground press to other regions under oppressive regimes is far from automatic. A potential audience that is interested in the material must exist — as with the media in any situation — and there must be some way to get the material to them. Some of these people earnestly want social change and believe there is some degree, however small, of hope that this outcome is achievable. Interestingly, and somewhat contrary to conventional wisdom, some people in the potential audience are motivated by their desire to know the truth whether it helps to actually change the situation or not. At any rate, the larger and more active and supportive the audience is, the more likely that the alternative press will succeed. On the other side of the equation are the journalists — potential and actually — and the absence of either audience or journalists can prevent the enterprise from being successful.

Although precarious, alternative media production actually builds civic capacity. According to Anna Husarka who worked for Poland's Solidarity Information Bureau in 1989, the journalism they practiced "was a political blueprint for the democratic struggles that dismantled communism." It is also important to note that traditional "news" is not the only "product" of an alternative media project. The B92 enterprise (which started as a college radio station in Belgrade) now includes Radio B92, Television B92, B92.net (Web site), B92 publishing (books and magazines), B92 music label, B92.Rex cultural centre, B92.concert agency, and B92.communications (Internet provision and satellite links) amply illustrates the rich potential of a "media" that chooses to embrace the widest range of outlets. One of their biggest and most successful projects was "Rock for Vote," the biggest rock tour in Serbia's history, "a traveling festival with 6 to 8 bands playing in 25 cities and towns throughout the country." The tour was organized while organizers and activists "were being molested, harassed and detained by the police on a daily basis." In spite of that 150,000 citizens attended the concerts. Most importantly the results of the 2000 elections demonstrated that their main objective was attained: "80% of first-time voters did go to the polls after all ... casting their ballots to bring about fundamental changes in the country."

As mentioned above, some media operations that developed during a period of hostility have had a difficult time making the transition from a post-war or post-oppressive regime. On the other hand, Gazeta Wyborcza, one of Poland's leading underground newspapers in the 1980s, which was started in a kindergarten classroom became one of the most influential and commercially viable dailies in Poland [Smillie, 1999].) B92, in least in the immediate aftermath of the troubles in Serbia, continued innovative programming that reflected their terrifying past. For example, they launched a Truth and Reconciliation process that included radio shows and a series of books about the wars (including the Srebrenica crimes) and disintegration of former Yugoslavia. They also convened a conference "In Search for Truth and Reconciliation" in 2000 that was attended by journalists, intellectuals and representatives of NGOs from all former Yugoslav republics took part and another conference "Truth, Responsibility and Reconciliation" the following year that featured experiences of other countries in similar processes. Radio B92 also set up a special documentation archive on the wars which included testimonies, documentaries, video footage, books and other documents. They also arranged "exhibitions, screenings of documentaries and public discussions on these topics are being organized throughout Serbia" (Matic, 2004).

Solution: 

Producing — and consuming — or other types of cultural or journalistic media with hostile societies can be hazardous to emotional as well as physical health. It is often a unrewarding enterprise at the same time it can be absolutely critical.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People in oppressive regimes can be harassed, beaten-up, imprisoned or even executed for possession or circulation of forbidden information, literature, or drawings. Journalists face grave challenges and require an extensive collection of techniques to get the news out. Alternative Media in Hostile Environments focuses on journalism during hostile conditions in which citizens have a greater need to engage with forbidden knowledge and share it with members of their community.

Pattern status: 
Released

Online Deliberation

Pattern ID: 
430
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
52
Matt Powell
The Evergreen State College
Douglas Schuler
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People working together to conduct business as a group are often plagued by the clash of personalities and shifting rivalries of factions and subgroups within the group. Also, without structure, a discussion can become random and rambling. It can be dominated by powerful individuals or other factors. The emergence of these negative group dynamics can adversely impact the ability of the group to achieve it's shared objectives. Other factors, such as distance to the meeting, inconvenient scheduling, or costs of getting to the meeting can obstruct effective and inclusive participation. Current online systems don't provide the structure that groups of people engaging in deliberative meetings or discussions need to help them efficiently move through a decision making process that is accessible and ensures equal participation by all.

Context: 

Board meetings, committee meetings, administrative panels, review boards, volunteer organizations, non-profit community groups.

Discussion: 

Everyday conversation, though often purposeful, is informal; it doesn't rely on an agenda, defined roles, or precisely delineated rules of interacton. To overcome the unpredictabilty of this type of human interaction, systematic rules have been created to facilitate purposeful group meetings whose objective is to produce collective decisions. One of the earliest set of "parliamentary procedures" was formulated in 1876 by Henry Robert in a treatise entitled "Roberts Rules of Order". "Roberts Rules", as they have come to be known, have been widely adopted as a means to fairly and equitably conduct the business of group meetings and provide a method to ensure that all parties within the group have the opportunity to participate in the decision making process. At the same time Roberts Rules ensure that no minority interest can exert undue influence on the process.

The advent of the Internet has provided an opportunity to combine the democratic principles (such as Roberts Rules of Order), with modern interactive communication technologies, to provide new web-based meeting facilitation systems. Ideally, online deliberations systems would allow people to come together as peers in an "on-line" environment and conduct "official" business meetings without being present in the same physical location. The plethora of online discussion systems, especially when contrasted to the scarcity of deliberative systems suggests the difficulty of this enterprise.

While working in and with a team of students at The Evergreen State College the authors of this pattern were involved in the development of eLiberate a working prototype developed using Linux, MySql, Apache, and PHP. The application provides facilities to create groups and to create and schedule meetings. Then, using written (typed) rather than spoken input, the system facilitates meeting by coordinating user interactions (such as making motions), conducting and tallying votes, and providing an archive facility for official minutes.

Online deliberation substitutes one set of advantages and disadvantages for the set that face-to-face deliberation offers. In general the broad criteria of either approach include access to the process, efficacy of the process (including individual involvement and process as a whole, and the context (including legal requirements, etc.). Of course these criteria overlap to some degree and influence each other.

Although face-to-face deliberation is basically "low-tech," physically getting to meetings may involve costly, "high-tech" travel. Then, once physically present at a face-to-face meeting, effective participation depends on the skills (including, for example, how to use Roberts Rules of Order), intentions and knowledge of the individuals. It also depends (of course!) on the skills, intentions and knowledge of the other participants in the meeting — including the chair.

By making access to a computer (connected to the Internet) a prerequisite to participation online deliberation adds an access hurdle comprised of cost, geography, and computer fluency. Depending on the characteristics of the potential attendees this barrier may be more than offset by the advantages that online deliberations could provide. If, for example, the meeting attendees are drawn from western Europe and the United States, it is likely the case that costs associated with computer communication will be less than transportation costs. As a matter of fact, online deliberation makes the prospect of more-or-less synchronous discussions / deliberations among people around the world possible, although here the tyranny of time zones and humankind's intrinsic circadian rhythms (which encourage us to sleep at night and stay awake in the daylight hours) become a mitigating factor: making decisions while many of the attendees are sleeping is one formula for dysfunctional meetings. The very fact that worldwide meetings become possible however provides an enormously fertile ground for civil society opportunities. (See, for example, the World Citizen Parliament pattern.)

Knowledge of the topics under discussion, knowledge of the process (Roberts Rules of Order, for example) and command of the language(s) being used in the discussion can also be obstacles to effective and equitable face-to-face as well online deliberation. Online environments, however, have the potential of alleviating, at least to some degree, some of the disadvantages that seem to be intrinsic to face-to-face settings. In the eLiberate example mentioned above attendees can select a "language pack" so that the appropriate Roberts Rules process word or phrase (such as "I second the motion") will be presented in the attendee's own language. Note that this is not machine ("on-the-fly") translation. Moreover it has no bearing whatsoever on the content of the meeting — what the participants actually contributed — it determines only which of several equivalent language sets of the Roberts Rules "meta-language" is displayed to each user. The possibility for automatic "machine translation" to be put to work on all attendee input so that attendee only saw input to the meeting in their own language. Of course machine translation is imperfect at best — and may always remain so. Try, for example, transforming some verbiage into another language and back again via a machine translation system on the web. The result generally bears no resemblance to the original. On the other hand, translation by humans is not perfect either; relying as it does on the skills of the human translator. For those reasons it may be well-advised for reasons of transparency and integrity of the process to make both (or all) original and machine-translated language versions available for inspection with the other meeting contributions in the database. (Today as I write this a transcript of an interview with me appeared in a Sao Paulo newspaper: my utterance "couldn't" was transcribed as "could" — an easy mistake that totally inverts the meaning!) So, while free and reliable electronic translation is desirable, high-quality human translation could be inserted into the process as appropriate. This could only be as "simultaneous" and as accurate as the skills and availability of the human translator interposed within the process would allow. The needs discussed above for multiple versions and for long-term storage are appropriate in the case of human translation as well.

The online environment offers other potential advantages. One obvious benefit is that only the actions that are allowable within the deliberation process at that time are displayed to the individual participants. This, in theory, can help reduce problems that are commonplace with meeting attendees who are not thoroughly familiar with the Roberts Rules conventions). Online systems can also provide online "help systems." Within eLiberate, for example, users can view descriptions of how and when specific actions are used. Also, as previously mentioned, a meeting transcript can be automatically created and votes can automatically be tabulated as well.

Solution: 

Development of a network-based application that will provide non-profit, community based organizations with the technology they need to conduct effective deliberative meetings when members can't easily get together in face-to-face meetings. Ideally the tools would increase their effectiveness in addressing their mission while requiring less time and money to conduct deliberative meetings.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Group discussions are often plagued by personality clashes and rivalries. Also, without structure, discussions can become random and rambling, or dominated by powerful individuals. To overcome these problems, systematic rules have been created to facilitate meetings that encourage fair decisions. Now is the time to develop Online Deliberation systems that support effective deliberative meetings when getting together in-person is difficult or costly. 

Pattern status: 
Released
Preface: 
People working together to conduct business as a group are often plagued by the clash of personalities and shifting rivalries within the group. Also, without structure, a discussion can become random and rambling. And it can be dominated by powerful individuals. Other factors, such as distance to the meeting, inconvenient scheduling, or costs of getting to the meeting can obstruct effective and inclusive participation. To overcome the unpredictability of informal human interaction, systematic rules have been created to facilitate purposeful group meetings and encourage collective decisions. It's time to develop Online Deliberation applications that provide organizations with the technology they need to conduct effective deliberative meetings when members can't easily get together in-person. Ideally the tools would increase their effectiveness while requiring less time and money to conduct the meetings.
Information about introductory graphic: 
Photograph: Fiorella De Cindio
Information about summary graphic: 

e-Liberate online deliberation tool; Public Sphere Project

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions

Pattern ID: 
749
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
51
Helena Meyer-Knapp
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Trauma and destruction are common results of war, religious conflict, gender oppression, and natural disaster. Unfortunately the way that societies deal with these issues can make a bad situation worse. Traditional systems of blame and punishment and even reparations all too often simply create additional harm.

Context: 

In the 21st Century formal judicial systems centered on a national government and the courts are losing ground to new models of adjudication and problem-solving. Some communities are reverting to long-standing traditions for healing, cleansing and restoring community balance. Others are taking up a more modern idea, the creation of a Truth Commission to take testimony from the victims and perpetrators in a conflict. These bodies range in scope and scale from the famous South African hearings covering thousands of cases spanning thirty years, to the Greensboro NC (USA) hearings about a single local catastrophe. Commission hearing rooms offer a forum for contact across previously insurmountable barriers of hostility, which can inspire a traditional enemies to build a newly shared investment in the future.

Discussion: 

Community organizations dealing with local traumatic events, families with a personal story of injustice, even an entity as large as the United States with its dark history of slavery can consider creating a Truth, Reconciliation and Amnesty Commission. A Commission holding hearings will allow the actual history to be revealed by taking testimony from a wide variety of perspectives, and will also become a forum in which adversaries can approach each other without insisting on punishment or revenge. Perhaps surprisingly, a narrative, anecdotal yet full recounting of painful truth contributes substantially to restoring the harmony and vitality of the community for the future.

South Africa’s is the most famous Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but there have been dozens of others.Many have played an important role in repairing community rifts without furthering the suffering for most people. In South Africa, an indigenously inspired and funded project, heard thousands of testimonies and disposed of over 3000 requests for amnesty. Guatemala’s TRC was more centralized and UN sponsored. A key outcome of the latter’s work came in an apology from the United States for its abusive interventions Guatemalan affairs.

TRCs offer a substitute for traditional disaster adjudication systems, which usually take one of the following three forms: insurance payments/liability law suits, government investigations/hearings, criminal trials and punishments. While each of these has its place, all three are concerned above all with blame for the past. Furthermore, legal and official procedures traditionally depend on arcane jargon and they tend to be expensive, long drawn out and highly centralized. Since they are dominated by experts, traditional dispute forums tend to marginalize the ordinary people who actually experience traumatic events. UN War Crimes Tribunals for Rwanda and Bosnia, which refuse to consider amnesty, have been bedeviled by the failings of court-based systems.

TRC style hearings are quite different. They are relatively informal so they are commensurately cheaper and can take place anywhere in an affected area. If they follow the South African model, hearings are not adversarial, they do not assign guilt or innocence and they are carried out in the local, natural language. In 2004 in Greensboro NC, hearings about 1979 slaughter of four civil rights activists offered an opportunity for people to continue on with a process that had actually been cut off in the courts.

TRC Commissioners need to attend openheartedly to the voices of suffering, to ask probing questions about responsibility and action so as to determine if the truth has indeed been told. Their success depends on the integrity of these commissioners. It also depends on careful recording and distribution of the testimonies. Participation, both for witnesses and those accused of doing harm has traditionally been voluntary, in the sense that no-one faces additional legal sanctions from their society for failing to appear, though community hostility can be hard on those who reject the Commission’s request to appear.

The strongest argument against TRC proceedings is precisely the strongest argument in favor of them – that such hearings are not the forum for punishing a perpetrator. Victim opponents of TRCs fear being deprived of justice. Perpetrators worry that the hearings are merely fishing expeditions to search out the guilty who will then be punished. Theorists are concerned that perpetrators who are not prosecuted under such a system will find they can act with impunity In South Africa some victims remained critical to the end, but many discovered that the new knowledge they gleaned at the hearings about what happened and why proved much stronger in easing their hearts than the had expected. And nothing about these hearings need prevent judicial action. Indeed in recent years there have been examples of re-opening judicial proceedings with a similar intent, for example the 2005 recreation and new “trial” of Chief Leshi leading his exoneration in Washington State, a hundred years after his execution.

Establishing a successful commission depends on preparing the groundwork on many issues. The factors identified by the Truth Commission Project (see below) include
• By whom/under whose name the commission is established
• When the commission is established and how far back it reaches
• Prevailing focus on healing or justice
• Public support for a truth commission
• Geographic horizon for Investigation
• Legal Powers of Investigation
• Rejecting anonymous and confidential testimonies
• Visibility of Hearings
• Degree of Formality of Hearings
• Whether or not to offer Amnesty
• Completion, Publication and Distribution/ Accessibilityof report

While most actual TRC hearings have been conducted in former war zones, it is easy to discern other issues which could benefit from this process:

1) The United States government and the American people could people re-examine the costs of the slave trade and the centuries of slave labor and yet minimize the likelihood that the acknowledgement of history becomes the basis furious revenge.
2) Or the people and the different levels of government could investigate the events of the New Orleans 2005 catastrophe without focusing narrowly on blame and thereby prompting an onslaught of liability law suits.
3) Or the residents and former residents of Hanford-Washington, Chernobyl-Ukraine, and Ukraine, and Bikini Island and other nuclear sites could craft public history out of the secrecy which surrounded the nuclear programs of the 20th century. At the same time they would create a forum for dialogue with the builders of the weapons and power plants who have left behind a radioactive legacy that will last for millennia.

This pattern links to Memory and Responsibility, Witnessing, Transparency, Community Inquiry, International Law

Solution: 

Therefore, faced with a festering historical trauma in a specific community, create a Truth, Reconciliation and Amnesty commission, using either informal or official channels. A commission can hear victim testimonies about past suffering as well as explanations from those responsible and it can provide a forum in which adversaries can meet without fear of further harm or punishment.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Societies recovering from wars and other traumas, can make a bad situation worse by focusing on blame or punishment. New models of adjudication and problem solving are emerging. Some communities are restoring long-standing healing and cleansing traditions. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions can help provide contact across previously insurmountable barriers of hostility and can inspire former enemies to build a shared investment in the future.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
A world map showing all the truth and reconciliation commissions in Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago, Chile.

Conversational Support Across Boundaries

Pattern ID: 
439
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
50
John Thomas
IBM Research Hawthorne
Version: 
2
Problem: 

As Herb Simon pointed out in the "Architecture of Complexity", a common heuristic for dealing with complexity is to break complex problems into smaller, more or less independent components. When a complex organization is broken down into smaller units (such as divisions, departments, teams) each unit specializes. People are selected, trained, and motivated to optimize the performance of that unit. However, there remains the necessity for coordinating across units to deal with changes, exceptions, and errors in organizational design. In these cases, it is necessary for human beings to solve problems across organizational boundaries. However, since people in different organizations have been selected, trained, and motivated differently, such conversations are often very difficult.

Context: 

Context: Organizations strive to become more efficient partly through automation and partly through specialization of function. Organizations train one group of people to perform a function and then "hand off" the process to another group trained to perform another function, etc. Integration often extends across formal organizational boundaries so that; e.g., various participants in supply chains attempt to coordinate their efforts. Such larger scale integration can result in greater efficiency. Systems are not designed, however, with complete knowledge of every possible contingency. When design assumptions break down, it is important for people on both sides of a functional boundary to have a cooperative conversation in order to solve the problem left by the gap between reality and the design assumptions.

Discussion: 

Forces:

Many processes are too complex to be understood in detail by one person.
Performance on a task is generally a logarithmic function of time on task.
A person's time is limited.
Complex systems are typically designed and built by decomposition.
Systems to automate, semi-automate, or coordinate are generally designed by people who are not the people who actually do the tasks.
Designs can never anticipate all contingencies.
Human beings can negotiate to solve novel coordination problems via conversation.
People find conversation in the service of finding and solving problems rewarding.
People are subject to forming "in-groups" and "out-groups."
If "in-groups" and "out-groups" are formed, rather than negotiating a solution to a problem that is globally optimal, each group will try to "win" by forcing the solution that is optimal for their subfunction.

Examples:

Historically, many organizations have recognized the need for such informal conversational ties and have provided both special places (Officer's Club; Traditional Pub; Company Cafeterias) and events (Company Picnics; Religious Retreats; Holiday Parties; Clubs) to facilitate such interchanges. As organizations attempt integration across ever wider scales however, providing appropriate venues becomes increasingly challenging.
In some cases, two related functions report to a single manager and the manager may serve as a communication bridge. Clearly, however, in complex organizations, formal management methods alone will be insufficient for coordination across all the boundaries.
When links in a processing chain do not converse, inefficiency results. For example, telecommunications company Customer Service Reps gave out credit card numbers to business customers. However, they had to get these numbers from the accounting department. The customer service reps were only allowed to make outbound calls between 12 and 1. The accounting department generally had lunch between 12 and 1. As a result, it was often many days before customers were able to begin using their business accounts. The accounting department and the customer service reps also disliked each other, had no informal contact, and when other coordination problems arose, generally blamed each other.

The same general difficulty arises in attempting to deal with any complex problem; e.g., attempting to voluntarily and democratically facilitate social change. For instance, in the pattern, "Community of Communities" it is possible for various communities to develop plans that inadvertently interfer with each other. That is why it is useful, on a regular basis, to have conversations that cross community boundaries.

At IBM Research, I used to play a lot of tennis with other IBMers including an inter-company league. Here, I met someone in the corporate tax department named Frank.
I also used a system which returned the abstracts of scientific and technical articles that contained key-words of interest. Such systems return many false positives. One in particular had nothing whatever to do with my interests; it was about a new federal program that allowed highly profitable companies to trade tax credits with companies that were losing money. Instead of throwing this in the trash, because I had had conversations with Frank, I forwarded him the abstract. He looked into this program and saved a lot of money for IBM. This case illustrates that ideally even people with no obvious process connection should be able to converse informally.
In planning the first Universal Usability Conference (ACM SIGCHI), it was necessary to delegate various functions to various parties. We attempted to plan ahead of time by standard tools such as budgets and project timelines. A weekly conference call proved crucial in allowing us to identify and solve unanticipated problems effectively and efficiently.
In WorldJam (an on-line 3 day company-wide electronic meeting for all IBMers), moderators and facilitators used Babble (an electronic blended synchronous/asynchonous chat) and Sametime (a synchronous chat system) as backchannels to collectively solve problems and coordinate information among jam topics.
In Hanna Pavillion, a children's psychiatric hospital, each change of shift is marked by a short joint staff meeting in which critical issues are discussed so that a continuity of knowledge persists across shift boundaries (common in most medical settings). In addition, at least some people work double or rotating shifts and get to know people from various shifts. There are ample opportunties for informal conversation during the day as well as special outings. Then, staff members can coordinate treatment for a specific child across the boundaries of profession and shift.

Additional Reviewers/Editors: Catalina Danis, Alison Lee, David Ing, Ian Simmonds
Image of Babble courtesty of: "Visual by www.PDImages.com"

Solution: 

At a minimum, Time, Space, and Means as well as Motivation must be provided for people who need to coordinate acoss units to carry on continuing informal conversation. People must have time to carry on such conversations. A space must be provided in which such conversations can take place. If a physical space convenient to both parties is not feasible, some means of support for informal distant collaboration and conversation is necessary. Payoffs must accrue to the parties across a boundary for jointly for solving problems, not for proving that the other party is to blame.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

We must often work together across organizational and other boundaries to solve problems. However, since other groups have different knowledge, norms, and expectations, conversations can be difficult. It is important for people on both sides to have cooperative conversations. Time, space, means, and motivation, must be provided. Payoffs must accrue to the parties for solving shared problems, not for proving that the other party is to blame.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about summary graphic: 

Berlin Wall; Wikimedia Commons

Culturally Situated Design Tools

Pattern ID: 
499
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
49
Ron Eglash
rpi
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The characterization of inadequate information technology resources in disadvantaged communities as a "digital divide" was a useful wake-up call. At the same time, this metaphor is often taken to imply a problematic solution: the one-way bridge. The one-way bridge sees a technology-rich side at one end, and a technology-poor side at the other end. The one-way bridge attempts to bring gadgets to a place of absense, a sort of technology vacuum. This view can have the unfortunate side-effect of making local knowledge and expertise invisible or de-valued.

Context: 

One of the alternative approaches which avoids the one-way assumption is that of Culturally Situated Design Tools: using computer simulations of cultural arts and other pracitces to "translate" from local knowledge to their high-tech counterparts in mathematics, computer graphics, architecture, agriculture, medicine, and science. Current design tools include a virtual bead loom for simulating Native American beadwork, a tool based on urban graffiti, an audio tool for simulating Latino percussion rhythms, a Yupik navigation simulation, etc. Each design tools makes use of the mathematics embedded in the practive--for example the virtual bead loom uses Cartesian coordinates, because of the four-fold symmetry of the traditional loom (and many other Native American designs such as the "four winds" healing traditions, the four-pole tipi, etc). Applications are primarily in K-12 math education, but they also can be applied to design projects such as architecture, or used as a research tool in investigations such as ethnomathematics.

Discussion: 

Although we have had some strong success with these tools, their deployment--particularly in the field of education--has not been easy. In the educational context, we first have to work with community members to find a cultural practice that can be simulated. In the case of Native American practices some of the best examples in terms of ethnomathematics turn out to be sacred practices that cannot be simulated (eg Navajo sand painting, Shoshone whirling disks). Second, we have to make sure the cultural practice is recognized by the youth -- several African examples were questioned because by teachers who said African American children would see them more as dusty museum artifacts than as something they had cultural ownership of. Third we have to satisfy the requirements of standard curricula -- many interesting examples of ethnomathematics (Eulerian paths in pacific Islander sand drawings, fractals in African architecture, etc.) are difficult to use because they are outside of the standard curriculum. Fourth the software support must be easy for teachers to use -- many math teachers (particularly those serving large minority populations) do not have ready access to good quality computers for their students, and do not have good technolgical training. The students must be provided with cultural background information and tutorials, and the teachers must be provided with lesson plans and examples of use.

Solution: 

Our first design tool was developed for the "African Fractals" project (Eglash 1999). Mathematics teachers with large African American student populations reported that they could not use fractals -- there was too much pressure to conform to the standard curriculum -- and that they felt that many of the examples were too culturally distant from the students. They all felt that the examples of hairstyles would work well however. Thus our first tool focused on the hairstyles, and used the term "iterative transformational geometry" rather than "fractals." The graphic above shows the result, called "Cornrow Curves." Each braid is represented as multiple copies of a “Y” shaped plait. In each iteration, the plait is copied, and a transformation is applied. The series of transformed copies creates the braid. In the above example, we can see the original style at top right, and a series of braid simulations, each composed of plait copies that are successively scaled down, rotated, and translated (reflection is only applied to whole braids, as in the case where one side of the head is a mirror image of the other). One of the interesting research outcomes was that our students discovered which parameters need to remain the same and which would be changed in order to produce the entire series of braids (that is, how to iterate the iterations). The cultural background section of the website is divided into “how to” (for those unfamiliar with the actual process of creating cornrow hairstyles) and an extensive cultural history of cornrow hairstyles. We have found that many students, even those of African American heritage, will tell us that cornrows were “invented in the 1960s.” The history section was developed to provide students with a more accurate understanding of that history, starting with their original context in Africa (where they were used to signify age, religion, ethnic group, social status, kinship, and many other meanings), the use of cornrows in resistance to the attempt at cultural erasure during slavery, their revival during the civil rights era, and their renaissance in hip-hop. Most importantly, we want students to realize that the cornrows are part of a broader range of scaling designs from Africa (Eglash 1999), and that they represent a part of this African mathematical heritage that survived the middle passage. As noted previously, we have since developed a wide variety of design tools, ranging from simulations of Mayan pyramids (see image below) to virtual baskets. Our evaluations have been based on pre-test/post-test comparisons of mathematics performance, average grades in mathematics classes (comparing a year with the tools to the previous year without), and scores on a survey of interest or engagement with IT (specifically computing careers). All three measures show statistically significant increase (p < .05 or better) with use of these tools. In summary, we note that any attempts to re-value local or traditional knowledge in the face of oppressive histories will be challenging, and all the more so if the re-valuation has to compete with current mainstream global practices. But we feel that Culturally Situated Design Tools offer an important new position in which to engage that struggle.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Bridging the “digital divide” often means that the technology-rich side brings gadgets to the technology-poor side. This can have the unfortunate side-effect of devaluing local knowledge and expertise. Culturally Situated Design Tools can use computer simulations of cultural practices (such as cornrow hair styling, urban graffiti, beadwork, breakdance, and Latino drumming) to "translate" local knowledge to their high-tech counterparts in math, computing, or media.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Ron Eglash
Information about summary graphic: 

Ron Eglash

Citizen Access to Simulations

Pattern ID: 
744
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
48
Alan Borning
University of Washington
Version: 
2
Problem: 

It can be difficult to understand and bring into public deliberation the long-term consequences of major public decisions, for example, the consequences of building a new rail system or a freeway in an urban area. Simulations can help illuminate these consequences (for example, a simulation of the long-term effects on land use, transportation, and environmental impacts of different choices). To be compelling and useful, the simulation results should presented in a way that they can be understood and used by a range of interested citizens. Further, ideally not just the results, but access to running the simulation, should be available to the public, to allow experimentation with alternatives. To aid in understanding and credibility, the simulation should be constructed in a transparent fashion, so that its operation is open to inspection and discussion.

Context: 

This pattern is potentially useful to advocacy groups, other community organizations, business associations, and local and regional governments. Using this pattern depends on a suitable simulation and data being available. Another factor (less important but useful) would be the existence of a community indicators program that tracks current trends using indicators, so that the *same* indicators can be used to both track current trends and to present the simulation results. (Doing this is particularly useful in applying the Reality Check pattern [link to Reality Check pattern], in which simulation results are compared with observed, real-world data.

Discussion: 

Community Indicators [link to Community and Civic Indicators pattern] can provide an important tool for monitoring current trends in a community. However, we will usually be interested in the values of these indicators in the future, not just the present - and which actions will result in more desirable outcomes as measured by the community indicators. Simulation and modeling can provide a powerful tool for informing such discussions, particularly if the results from the simulation can be presented using the same indicators as selected in a participatory Community and Civic Indicators project. For example, the summary graphic for this pattern shows the population densities in the Puget Sound region in Washington State in 2025 given the current land use and transportation plans, as projected by the UrbanSim simulation system. The results of the work should be made available using the web or printed reports. Using the web has the advantage that definitions of indicators, documentation, and related information can be conveniently linked together. Supporting public access to running the simulation, as well as the results, might be provided in several different ways, depending on the complexity and size of the simulation and input data. Particularly for complex simulations, with substantial data requirements, accessing a simulation hosted on a server via a web interface is a good technique. Smaller simulations might be downloaded and run on individual's computers. This is in general not an easy pattern to use. In addition to developing the set of indicators (including careful definitions and documentation), a simulation of the phenomenon of interest must exist or be developed, including the necessary data and calibration to apply it in the given community. For the example used here (land use and transportation), this typically requires that the local or regional government agency in charge of land use and transportation planning either undertake the simulation work itself, or be willing to work closely with another organization that does so. The game SimCity demonstrates that many people -- including grade school children -- can be highly engaged by what might have been thought to be a dry topic, namely urban planning. While games such as SimCity can provide valuable inspiration and interaction ideas, there are key differences between such games and the simulations suggested in this pattern. First, this pattern is concerned with producing simulations of actual phenomena, for example, simulating a specific, real, urban area, with the intent of producing useful forecasts of its long-term development to inform public deliberation and debate. Second, the interaction techniques available to its users should expose only the actions and "policy levers" available to real citizens and governments (for the urban simulation example, such as building light rail systems or changing zoning). Users of these simulations can't simply declare that an area will be redeveloped (or bring in Godzilla); rather, all they can do is change relevant policies in a scenario in hopes of influencing people in the simulated environment to redevelop the area and residents to move there. Potential challenges to the result include challenges to the accuracy and reliability of the simulation.

Solution: 

Develop a simulation of the system of interest (for example, of urban land use and transportation), and make the results of the simulation accessible to interested stakeholders using indicators. When possible, make running the simulation accessible to the public as well.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Simulations can help illuminate long-term consequences of major public decisions on land use, transportation, and the environment. Citizen Access to Simulations can provide powerful capabilities for informing community discussions, particularly if the results are presented using the same indicators that were used in a participatory community and civic indicators project.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
UrbanSim

Meaningful Maps

Pattern ID: 
779
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
47
Andy Dearden
Sheffield Hallam University
Scot Fletcher
Handspring design, Sheffield, UK
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People are often unaware of the state of the world around them — especially "invisible", second-order or abstract relationships. Many of the important issues for the community, the environment and for humanity are difficult to see. To improve the world, we must understand the current situation, highlight the important factors, and help others to understand the issues. How can we collect up to date information and present it in a way that people find easy to understand?

Context: 

This pattern is useful for community groups, advocacy groups and campaigns that are working to improve the world around them. This might be about local environmental quality, promoting international respect for human rights, basic needs such as clean- water or nutrition, or access to opportunities, in a neighbourhood, city or country. Groups need to target their resources carefully to achieve the maximum impact. They also want to communicate their concerns and encourage others to support their work. To be effective they need to reveal hidden relationships.

Discussion: 

To act effectively to improve a situation, we need to understand that situation. Using a map can act both: as a way of monitoring the current situation in an area and showing how this is changing; and as a way of presenting the issues to other people to raise their awareness and encourage them to support the work. The image above is based on the Green Apple Map of New York City http://www.greenapplemap.org

Examples of using maps in this way include: Green Maps (www.greenmap.org) of cities which can show information about local open space, green transport options, pollution problems, renewable resources, sustainable or fair-trade businesses, or cultural facilities; the State of the World Atlas (Kidron et al., 2003) which includes a large set of global maps covering topics such as political systems, transnationals, climate change, biodiversity, human rights, war and peace, malnutrition and life-expectancy; locally produced maps such as the Sheffield Food Map (Fletcher et al. 2005), which shows locations of community cafes, healthy and socially responsible eating places, opportunities to grow food, buy seeds or get advice on growing, and places to get advice on healthy nutrition, cooking and health.

It is important that the map is easy for readers to understand. Distinctive icons, graphs and other visual features should be designed to represent the key topics. The Green Maps project (www.greenmap.org) provide a set of icons that can be used for maps concerned with environmental issues. Displaying such icons on a map can make inequalities between different areas easy to see. The image below shows the tip of Manhattan on one of the Green Apple Maps.

It may be helpful to make the map available on the Internet, but in giving the information away freely, you need to consider how the funding to keep the map up to date will be sustainable.

It is important that the map is seen as a reliable source of information. The project needs to define a clear set of criteria for what is / is not to be included on the map. These criteria should be publicly available.

The map also needs to be kept up to date, so the project will need to identify a person or group of people who will be responsible for assessing items against the criteria and revising the map on a regular basis. On-line versions can be made database driven.

To ensure that the map is seen as unbiased, the mapping project must be careful to remain independent of political or commercial interests that might be interpreted by a reader as influencing the content. This can make it difficult to use advertising as a source of funding for the project. Alternative sources of funds may be selling the printed version of the map, providing the map to schools or education centres in return for a fee, funding from local government or planning authorities.

Solution: 

Create a map that displays the information you care about in the area where you are working. Design easily readable icons and visual features to make the map interesting to look at, and the facts easy to see. Establish a group of people to maintain the map so that information is up-to-date, and you can monitor how things change over time. Ensure that this group are able to give unbiased reports, independent of pressure from interested parties.

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
organization
Categories: 
engagement
Categories: 
resources
Themes: 
Research for Action
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Globalism and Localism
Themes: 
Policy
Themes: 
Social Critique
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Social Movement
Themes: 
Case Studies
Verbiage for pattern card: 

To improve the world, we must understand the situation, highlight the important factors, and help others to understand the issues. Meaningful Maps can provide a clear focus for relevant information. Groups need to use their resources carefully to achieve the maximum impact. They also want to communicate their concerns and encourage others to support their work.

Pattern status: 
Released

Alternative Progress Indices

Pattern ID: 
777
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
46
Burl Humana
Richard Reiss
one-country.com
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Economic indexes of various kinds attempt to measure the well being of nations, markets, corporations, individual people, and society. Most of these economic indexes express return only in monetary format and risk is calculated on the standard deviation of this monetary expression. These economic indexes need to also include information that makes life worth living, natural and social capital (living capital), so non-monetary rewards are also included in the standard deviation and risks to human well being can be indicated more accurately.

Context: 

Trading on the benchmark of indices has become increasingly popular over the last few years. As indexes become more widely used than ever before they become easy indicators, for those they benefit, in measuring how our world is doing, according to them, and skew the honest reality for mankind that we hope to protect. It is imperative to accurately measure the well being of nations, corporations, individual people, and societies through indexes that adequately reflect the true costs and benefits contributing to the well being of our world.

Discussion: 

Indexes take on a market theory notion that the “efficient frontier” has all the information needed to calculate an accurate return (reward) versus risk (cost) index. Following this notion is the idea that filtering the market for certain criteria of a specialized index lowers the amount of return received for risk taken, because filtered information is inefficient. This raises questions about the “efficiency” of markets because active managers filter economic information everyday to create specialized portfolios to increase return. On this, it would theoretically stand that an index measuring the well being of society could filter for criteria rewarding the common good with little to no ill effect from lack of the so called “efficiency” imbibed by the market.

Around the globe, there is an increase in the number of sustainability and social responsibility indexes (SRI). These indexes came out of first generation socially conscious investing that excluded corporate stock from investment portfolios on the basis of particular activities deemed to be unethical. From this, a second generation has emerged and the focus of SRI has changed primarily to identifying social and environmental issues that are “material” to business performance. This is an increased attempt by companies to assess the materiality of sustainability issues on (stock) value creation. These indices paint a picture that socially responsibility is only important when a financial gain is made by corporations or stockholders. This is not exactly what we are looking for when we hope to use indexes to help measure the well being of our world. When individual investors purchase SRI traded securities/indexes they still have to deal with the reality that the costs to living capital are making life less valuable even while their portfolios grow.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)/Gross National Product (GNP) per capita has most lately been used as an index of standard of living in an economy. GDP/GNP only measures the populations ease in satisfying their material wants (an index of reward for risk taken) and all else that contributes to the sustainability of people and the environment is lost. "Adding up the monetary transactions in an economy and calling this prosperity obscures an honest account of the well being of nations." (Anielski, 2000)

Quality of life and standard of living should not be separate measurements in an index "A more complex index of standard of living than GDP must be employed to take into account not only the material standard of living but also other factors that contribute to human well-being such as leisure, safety, cultural resources, social life, mental health, and enironmental quality issues, to name a few." (Anielski, 2000)

Simon Kuznets' idea “…[in] favour of more inclusive measures, less dependent on markets..." (Anielski, 2000) rings true as a more realistic approach to well-being. "The eventual solution would obviously lie in devising a single yardstick of both economies [virtual wealth – money,debt, stock markets; and real wealth – human, natural and social capital]…that would perhaps lie outside the different economic and social institutions and be grounded in experimental science (of nutrition, warmth, health, shelter, etc.)." (Anielski, 2000) The business for this millennium is to take up this empirical economic challenge for a single bottom line index for national well-being.

“The U.S. Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) and its predecessor, the Index for Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) provide the basis for developing a new accountancy to address Kuznets’ challenge. The U.S. GPI released in 1995 and since updated…is one of the most ambitious attempts at calculating the total benefits and costs related to [economics for community] for the US. First developed by Clifford W. Cobb, GPI/ISEW remains one of the most important attempts to measure sustainable current welfare." (Anielski, 2000)

"The GPI adds a cost side to the growth ledger, begins to account for the aspects of the economy that lie outside the realm of monetary exchange, acknowledges that the economy exists for future generations as well as for the present one and adjusts for income disparities. The GPI begins with personal consumption expenditures as a baseline, the way the GDP does. Personal spending by households makes up roughly 65 percent of the US GDP. The GPI then make a series of 24 adjustments for unaccounted benefits, depreciation costs (for social and natural capital) and deducts regrettable social and environmental expenditures. Specific elements of the GPI include personal consumer expenditures, income, value and cost of consumer spending on durable goods and household capital, cost of household pollution abatement, cost of commuting, cost of crime, cost of automobile accidents, cost of family breakdown, value of housework and parenting, value of voluntary work, loss of leisure time, services of streets and highways, cost of underemployment, air pollution, ozone depletion, water pollution, noise pollution, cost of depletion of non renewable, loss of forests, long term environmental damage, loss of wetlands, net capital investment, net foreign lending/borrowing." (Anielski, 2000) The GPI has also set goals for itself "to improve its framework in the areas of human capital, technology, government spending, social infrastructure, natural capital and environmental accounts, ecological carrying capacity, genetic diversity, water projects, workplace environment, underground economy, and pollution and lifestyle induced disease." (Anielski, 2000)

The results of the GPI reveal that "…well being has declined while virtual wealth (debt, stock markets) have grown exponentially. One could say that while we are making more money we are effectively eroding the living capital which makes our lives worthwhile. “The primary benefit of the GPI is to provide decision makers with a more holistic account of the economic well-being of their community…." (Anielski, 2000)

"Any accounting system of well-being must be aligned with the values, experiences, and physical realities of the citizens of a community. The challenge in future GPI/ISEW accounting will be the ability of constructing accounts that are consistent with the held values, principles, and ethical foundation of a community or society." (Anielski, 2000)

Solution: 

Alternative indexes like the Genuine Progress Indicator that include natural and human capital can illuminate our world on the real picture of human well being that can be obfuscated by traditional economic indexes. "The ultimate utility of such measurement efforts is that the information provides evidence of trends in the welfare of society." (Aneilski, 2000)

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Economic indexes that measure the well-being of nations, markets, corporations, individual people, and society as a whole are expressed only in monetary terms and miss several important factors; they need to factor in information on positive factors such as volunteering and housework and negative factors such as pollution and crime.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Wiki Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schoolgirls_in_Bamozai.JPG
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